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Machshavot HaRav: Reflections from Rabbi Waxman


From Darkness to Light


The Shabbat between Rosh HaShanah is called Shabbat Shuvah, the sabbath of return. (It gets its name from the opening word of the haftorah: Shuvah, return. Actually, it probably should be called Shabbat Teshuvah, the sabbath of repentance, for that is the theme of the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. And yes, both Shuvah and Teshuvah have the same Hebrew root.) In recent years, a designation has arisen for the Shabbat between Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, which we marked this past Monday and Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day, which will be marked beginning this coming Monday evening. It is called Shabbat Tekumah (from the root KUM, to rise), and means the sabbath of renewal, an apt image going from the horror of the Holocaust to the birth of Israel. (But not precisely: in between is Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, which this year somberly will memorialize 822 civilians and 711 members of the IDF who have perished since October 7th.) Yom HaAtzmaut will be a somber commemoration this year, as the war in Gaza grinds on and the hostages remain in captivity.

Last year, when we marched in the Israel parade, we joined with those protesting the proposed judicial reform. This year we will march with heavy hearts. Victory appears elusive as does a deal for the return of those in captivity. We are caught between balancing our dismay at the failures of the current government with the need to stand up to the rising tide of anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and outright antisemitic sentiment, which is not restricted to college campuses. (I recommend this article by Lazar Berman which appeared in The Times of Israel: It is expected that there will be serious counterdemonstrations this year; not limited to a small group of the Neturay Karta (an ultra-Orthodox opposing the creation of the Jewish state) and a few Arab protesters. As a measure of security, there will be no floats this year; and the marchers will have to all wear the same group shirts. Moreover, given the current situation, the music will be more muted. (The parade will take place on the first Sunday in June, June 2nd.) We will be there despite our misgivings because at this juncture Israel needs to be reassured by the support of Jews in the Diaspora.

We will continue to pray for Israel, for its citizens, for its armed forces, and for the hostages.


Shabbat shalom.


PS Let me end on a more positive note. Back in February, as part of the Conference of Presidents Mission to Israel, we had lunch at the Foreign Ministry. We had the pleasure of sitting at a table with four people who were in training to be diplomats. One of them was a Druze woman who told us that one day her daughter came home from school and said, “Mommy, there is something special about Israel.” “And what is that?”, her mother asked. “It is the only Jewish country in the world and that makes it special.” From the mouth of babes.


P.P.S. To mark Israel Independence Day, you could do worse than open a bottle of Israeli wine.


Here is the link for our Friday evening service at 8 p.m.:

Meeting ID: 837 3603 1460

Saturday morning in the sanctuary at 10 a.m.





Payrush LaParshahah: A Comment on the Weekly Torah Portion


The portion of Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1-37) is read this Saturday, May 11th.


19: 17 You shall not hate your kinfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him. (18) You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countryman. Love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord.


19:18 Love your neighbor as yourself. Not that one should love every person as one loves himself, for that is impossible. And Rabbi Akiva already came and taught that your life takes precedence over the life of your friend. Rather the meaning of “as yourself” is similar to you, as in [the phrase}, “you are the equal of Pharaoh” [Genesis 44:18—Judah speaking to Joseph], “there is none so discerning and wise as you” [Genesis 42:39-Pharoah speaking to Joseph]and similarly here “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” means that he is equal to you and similar to you [in that], he, too, was created in the image of God, and he is a man like yourself. And this includes every human being, for all are created in [the divine] image. And because one who honors the human image and searches for his virtues improves his soul for every human being, the Torah concludes with this commandment, as it began [this section—19:3] with “you shall each revere his mother and his father.” (Isaac Samuel Reggio, [Isacco Samuel Reggio] Rabbi Reggio was born in 1784 in Gorizia [the part of the Hapsburg empire; today in northeastern Italy]. He studied Hebrew and rabbinics with his father Rabbi Abraham Vita but also attended the gymnasium, where he obtained a secular education, learning French and Latin, in addition to Italian and German. He was quite precocious and at the age of 14 composed a metrical dirge in Hebrew upon the death the communal rabbi and a few years later, in 1802, he published in German a solution to a difficult mathematical problem and later discovered a new demonstration of the Pythagorean theorem. In 1803 he moved to Trieste, where he served for four years as a tutor in the house of a wealthy family. He returned to his hometown in 1807, where a year later he married. In 1810, he was appointed by the French governor as professor belles-lettres, geography, and history and was made chancellor of the lycée. However, when the area reverted to Austrian control, he was compelled to resign and devoted himself thereon exclusively to Jewish literature. In 1822, in response to a decree that communal rabbis required a degree in philosophy, Reggio was instrumental in creating the rabbinical college in Padua: he was responsible for drafting the statutes and the educational program. In 1846, after his father’s death, he reluctantly accepted the position of communal rabbi in Goritz, a position he occupied until his death in 1855. He was a prolific author. In 1818 he published Ma’amar Torah Min HaShamayim [An Essay on Torah from Heaven], which served as an introduction to his Italian translation of the Torah, which appeared three years later with the title Sefer Torat Elokim [The Divine Book of the Torah]. The volume included a Hebrew commentary. [He was taking a leaf from Mendelssohn’s efforts to produce a German translation of the Bible along with a Hebrew commentary.]  He also translated the Book of Isaiah, as well as Joshua, Ruth, and Lamentations. His Iggerot Yashar [Straightforward Letters], published over the course of a few years [1834-1836] was a collection of exegetical, philosophical, and historical essays in the form of letters to a friend. In 1849, he issued Mazkeret Yashar [A Straightforward Memorandum], which was a biographical sketch in which he enumerated 103 works. He was a frequent contributor to the Jewish journals of his day. Some of his writings were quite controversial, such as his Mafteach el Megilalt Ester [A Key to the Scroll of Esther], in which he asserted that contrary to rabbinic tradition, Mordecai should be viewed negatively: not only did Mordecai instruct Esther to hide her religion, his refusal to bow to Haman was not justified, and later, when he attained great power, he did nothing to better the lot of his fellow Jews. He also defended those who argued that the second part of Isaiah, chapters 40-66, was in fact written by an anonymous author, over a century later, sometime after the Babylonian exile. One of his works appeared in English in 1855: A Guide for the Religious Instruction of Jewish Youth. It should be noted that he was a painter of considerable ability: more than 200 drawings and paintings survive, including portraits of many of the leading Jewish figures of the era.)






Questions for Kedoshim 5784 (Leviticus 19:1-37)


  1. Is there a significance to the fact that the mother comes first in 19:3?
  2. Why the combination of reverence for parents and observance of the Sabbath? What happens when they clash?
  3. For how long were people able to eat left-overs of an offering of “well-being?”
  4. Is there a minimum amount of the field that must be designated as “peah”, edge of the field? What Yiddish word is related to this Hebrew term?
  5. What is wrong with insulting the deaf, as they can’t hear the insult?
  6. What is the functional difference between bearing a grudge and seeking vengeance?
  7. Does the ban in verse 19 include a poly-wool blend?
  8. What is the fate of the seduced woman slave mentioned in verse 20?
  9. Is the ban on produce of the first ¾ years still observed? How much of a sacrifice is it for farmers and vintners?
  10. Are the two halves of versed 28 related?
  11. Why is the fear of God appended to the passage about honoring the elderly?
  12. What does it mean to love the stranger as per verse 34?


Questions for the Haftorah (Ezekiel 22:1-19)


  1. Of what sins were Jerusalem and its leaders accused?
  2. Were any of these ritual sins?
  3. What punishment will God mete out?
  4. Was God to function as an alchemist or do the concluding verses suggest another a divine punishmen





Sun, May 19 2024 11 Iyyar 5784